The year is 2020, but LGBTQ discrimination is still alive and well in one New York City borough.
Miss Staten Island was banned from participating in this past weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade shortly after she came out as bisexual, leaving her to don rainbow colors with other protesters from the event’s sidelines.
“It would have felt disingenuous,” 23-year-old Madison L’Insalata told the Staten Island Advance of why she revealed her sexuality one day before Sunday’s parade. “I felt that it was necessary for me to come out and say that I was bi publicly because I wanted it to be clear that I’m part of this community.”
The Staten Island St. Patrick’s Parade has long prohibited members of the LGBTQ community from displaying banners or other symbols that identify their sexuality, citing religious grounds.
Councilman Joseph Borelli (R-South Shore) told the Long Island Advance that police officers were called to physically prevent him, his wife and two kids from marching in the parade because he showed up wearing a small pride flag pin.
Jim Smith, director of Miss Staten Island Scholarship Pageants, told CBS station WLNY that he was told Saturday night by the parade’s organizer, Larry Cummings, that L’Insalata and another pageant queen who supported her were no longer allowed to participate because of her announcement. Smith said Cummings told him he was “worried about her safety.”
“It’s really hurtful. Nobody likes to feel rejected from their community,” L’Insalata told the local station.
New York City Police Detective Brian Downey, who serves as president of the city’s Gay Officers Action League, said Staten Island’s parade is the only one in his city that his group isn’t allowed to participate in.
“Staten Island is the last holdout in the city,” he told The New York Times. “We are in the parade in Queens, we are in the parade in Manhattan, we are in the parade in Brooklyn. Let us join the parade on Staten Island.”
Manhattan’s parade dropped its own ban on LGBTQ contingents from participating in 2015. It expects more than 150,000 people to participate in the March 17 event.
L’Insalata, Smith and Cummings could not immediately be reached for comment.